Changed times at Roehampton
THF present crop of student teachers at Digby Stuart Training College, knew nothing of the Blitz. The eldest of them were in their prams and sucking their toes when the bombs fell. The lovely, old convent lay in ruins. the chapel gutted, little left of the main building but the Jubilee wing. It seemed, then, that Roehampton would have to be crossed off the Catholic map.
Today, Digby Stuart College has five hundred students, a massive pile of new buildings and a reputation second to none. Small portions of the old convent have been incorporated, the Jubilee Wing, the Gothic front, flanking the Lane, part of the High Altar and the small Sacred Heart chapel which guards Mother Stuart's grave.
Pre-war generations called the brawn at supper 'corridor meat' after the patterned flooring, some. of which (the floor, not the brawn) survives as a memory.
Who can visit Digby Stuart today without an ardent admiration? Here the words are fulfilled : "You can't keep a good nun down."
Digby Stuart is, today, enormou.s; it needs a resident chaplain and runs three independent annual retreats. Already the 120 first year students are too many for one priest. How times have changed! Two superior peacocks eyed me suspiciously through the staff dining-room window while a chef, in white hat and full plumage, reigned in the kitchen block.
Important officials carry walkietalkie outfits about their person to maintain contact with the Lodge. A nun, pacing the garden deep in prayer, suddenly wheels and moves off briskly, summoned, if not by the spirit, at least by an inner voice.
Those who were sucking their toes in the blitz, if they had got that far on the road to heaven, now move about impressively in brown, academic gowns. They look very learned but the. gowns, like a monk's cowl, can stand for nothing or for much.
The old Jesuit noviciate, closed last summer after a century of service, looked forlorn and depre.ssitig as I peered at it through padlocked gates. Tin cans, cigarette packets, weeds made a mournful setting though a builder's notice suggests that the house will soon be turned to some other use. The Jesuit graves are still in the garden but I could not get to them. Among the many buried there are two whose writing still bring consolation to many, Archbishop Goodier and Fr. Daniel Considine.
Roehampton village was a show place in 1950 when housing experts were brought to inspect the very latest experiments in a planned housing estate. While still noisy and cheerful, it all
looks bedraggled today. Younger readers of this paper may live to see another burst of slum clearance with Roehampton dwellers shifted to a bigger and better estate in Bushy Park. Rochampton may, one day, look worse than Fulham which Robert Lind described as "the sin of the Laodiceans in brick".
Our War on Want
First thoughth for me on my. return to Bournemouth hover round the Nevett Fund. It has reached £1,570 in just four months. The organisers were purring over a letter from Fr. Nevett, posted in Darjeeling, which ended: "A big thank you for the £300 draft received two days back. You really are doing marvellously! You can only have a faint reflection of the happiness that you are bringing to so many children and their parents. You'll get the full dazzle of it all in heaven. This morning I said Mass for you and your helpers."
More than Money
The Nevett Fund was never a mere cash-raising project and it now affords a true Christian link between CATHOLIC HERALD readers and outcast Indian kids. Thus St. Margaret's, Twickenham, displays in the church porch a photo of the little boy whom parishioners are maintaining at school. Peggy Bunt and her Mayfield helpers are in touch with a little boy who hopes one day to be a priest. Here is a snapshot of Marie Vianney, an orphan. sent to school by Mr. M.D.B. (Midlands).
Marie writes from Holy Cross Girls' High School, Teppakulam: "I am so grateful for all the help that I am receiving from you. will pray to Our Lord and His Mother every day for you and your family". She writes in Tamil but a kind nun sent a translation. No wonder the Nevett fund bounds ahead.
Any reader can help with amounts however small and many who started four months ago come back and back again. The organisers keep you informed and, where possible, put you in touch with a child. You may" be surc, too, that every penny pulls its weight in the struggle — we have Fr. Nevett, a 'Yorkshireman, at the receiving end. Write to the Nevett Fund, 1 Albert Road, Bournemouth.
A friend writes: "I will not have a word against dear Fr. Faber who gave us so many lovely hymns. We sing them no more but he certainly foresaw the days of Dr. Beeching when he wrote '0 would the transport last'!"